top of page


The Academic Match is the creator and designer of BIG Essay Ideas Cards, a proprietary deck of cards with questions or prompts that will help students to uncover Bold, Insightful and Genuine Ideas ("BIG Ideas") as they consider potential topics for their college application essays. The student's top-of-mind responses to these cards will lead to a productive discussion and will provide inspiration for thoughtful personal statements and essays for college, graduate school, internships, and scholarships. These 50 BIG Essay Ideas have the power to transform a student from not knowing what to write about to generating unique material for the content and context of a truly original essay. While not every card will be appropriate for every student, the collection of these BIG Essay Ideas will help a student to brainstorm and develop an essay that is BIG--Bold, Insightful, and Genuine.


Not sure yet about ordering BIG Cards? Read what other enthusiastic users have to say:

"BIG Essay Cards – Heroes. Magic. Social media. What do these have in common? They are just some of the self-reflections that students can consider and discuss in the BIG Essay Card process. These cards have so many uses in the college planning process beyond just helping with essay brainstorming. With BIG Essay questions, shy students open up when asked interesting questions, possibly questions no one has ever seemed to care to ask before. Students who are reluctant to “brag” about their valuable contributions to school, family, or community, find a way to see their worth without feeling that they sound arrogant or boastful. Students who may think that they are one-dimensional, that they have only one talent, skill, or achievement, can see a larger, deeper picture of themselves. Students who have so much to talk about that they can’t choose just one idea can explore what’s most important to them. The BIG question process shows students that a college counselor or independent educational consultant has a true interest in who they are, what they think and feel, what their lives have been like, what their interests and goals are, and how they can think, and yes, write, about their inner selves in authentic and powerful ways. Kudos to The Academic Match, for giving us a Bold, Insightful, Genuine (B.I.G.) tool to use to help us learn about our students, and help our students discover themselves!" 

-A.G., College Counselor in NY

"Paula, met with a student yesterday who had sent me a lousy first draft! A boring narrative of her volunteer experience! Enter BIG Essay Cards! Came out of meeting with insights about her grandmother's influence and appropriate vingette!!! Huge timesaver!! Thanks for this valuable tool!!! Score for BIG!"

- M.H., College Counselor in Georgia

"I have been utilizing the BIG cards to promote thoughtful discussions with my students since they were first created. While I have a hard and fast rule against taking on clients during senior year, I broke that rule last fall for a brilliant student. She was completely blocked and could not get a single sentence down on paper for any of the myriad essays that were required by the group of universities on her college list. During our second meeting, I pulled out the B.I.G. cards and she started sorting through the stack. She began talking, laughing, weeping and talking some more. I took notes. The essays that evolved from that one conversation were effervescent, lively and interesting."

- L.G., M.Ed in International Counseling, Athens, Greece

"Yesterday, I met with my student and we started to talk about what his essay should and should not look like and what the prompts are. He said he already knew what he wanted to write about. I took a deep breath because in my experience when students already have an essay in mind it isn't usually a very good one. This one didn't disappoint. Instead of explaining to him the three hundred reasons why that would not be a good essay, I got out my BIG Idea essay cards. We went through the first fifteen and came up with all kinds of possible essays that were much more palatable. We talked about his love of fencing and how it has helped him learn to be both an individual competitor but also part of a team. He described his first visit to China and how his impression of that country and culture has changed over subsequent visits with his parents. I learned that he has a watch winder (I didn't know such things existed!) and several treasured watches that were gifts from his father. No tiny chirping birds appeared circling his head like in Disney movies, but thanks to the BIG Idea cards I was able to help him come up with some essays. So THANK YOU so much for these brilliant cards. You're a genius and I'm so glad to be able to help my students (and save a corner of my own sanity) thanks to your great idea."

- A.M., College Counselor in NC

"I've used the BIG cards several times this summer when brainstorming essay topics with my students, and they've never failed me! Thanks so much!"

- D.C., tutor in MA

"The BIG Essay cards turned a daunting task into a fun and productive process that resulted in a genuine piece that I am very proud of!" 

- J.R., High School Senior

bottom of page